If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it... (1 Corinthians 12:26)
These are powerful words. Strong words. So why is it that when it comes to the mental health epidemic the world is currently facing, the church’s response has been so...mixed?
Many churches have brushed it off as a lack of faith or a sin issue. You simply aren't praying enough! While other churches are so ill equipped or ignorant, and thus so impotent to provide meaningful help, that they have just ignored the problem all together.
The church is more than capable of providing Biblical, Christ-centred help to anyone suffering from mental disorders or mental health issues. Our God isn't scared, unaware, or disdainful of this epidemic - and neither should we be! His love is that strong!
Keep in mind
Off the bat, the church must acknowledge that mental health is also a physical problem, as much a broken bone is. We must get understanding about the physical and medical aspects, that form part of the wholistic package that is "mental" health.
Talking to a doctor is a good first step - for the one needing help, but also for the one striving to help others. Does your church's councillors understand, at least the basic medicinal, dietary, and psychiatric factors at play when someone suffers from depression? Or panic disorder?
Remember that people are usually in families. Everyone in that family needs God’s love made manifest through encouragement and support. Aid the whole family not just the individual; they are not the only one dealing with the consequences of this trial. Can the church you take the family a meal regularly? Can someone take the kids for an afternoon?
Habit building - to tackle the lifestyle challenges - can be of so much help, but it takes time, patience, and accountability. All of which is also necessary as we figure out together how to manage (not cure) this thing.
All our help ultimately comes from the Lord, so get everyone thinking biblically about these conditions. Remind them of their hope that is in Christ alone. God loves and helps His children through His children.
Compassion already goes such a long way, but showing Christ's love does not mean we give anyone false hope. We are called to speak the truth in love, and part of this calling to realistic when setting expectations. As well as to be firm when we are dealing with sin issues - that are sometimes a RESULT, nut never the cause of mental disorders.
what we are here for
The church's first and foremost responsibility is to glorify God by fulfilling the mandates of the church clearly stipulated in Scripture. And from it we know that the body of Christ must be built in the unity of the Spirit. Therefore, remember that, whether you need counselling or you are counselling people with mental health issues, that, according to Jesus, it is never a “us and them” scenario. We are all affected! We are all suffering the effects of this fallen world. And it hurts.
Salvation in Christ gives us freedom from the power of sin and hope that one day we will be freed from the consequences of sin.
In the meantime, suffering with each other with compassion, serving one another by knowing what we can, and offering Christ's love through as practical a means as possible - whether that is counselling or going with someone to the Doctor - is not a detour in the church’s road to achieving our biblical goals. It is our whole point! It is the reason we are here, established as a physical and spiritual support system for each other.